…say ‘don’t endanger innocent pupils’ lives’
Critical stakeholders in the education sector in Oyo State have faulted the decision of Governor Seyi Makinde to reopen private and public primary schools on Monday, June 29, 2020.
The stakeholders called on the governor to rescind the decision in order not to endanger the lives of the innocent pupils.
According to them, it is not safe to reopen schools in the state, as the number of Covid-19 patients is increasing on a daily basis.
In their reactions, the State chapter of the Nigerian Union of Teachers, said its leadership was not part of the government decision to reopen private and public schools in the state.
NUT Chairman, Mr. Samson Adedoyin, said the union had yet to understand the decision of the government to reopen the school this period when the number of Covid-19 patients is on geometric increase.
According to him, though the government has yet to make contact with NUT formally, “We will go and meet government.
“We need government to make provisions for pupils, students in schools to ensure that the virus does not spread.
“Government should provide facemasks, washing hand bowls, sanitizers then we will be able to maintain social distancing based on NCDC guidelines.
“Government should make provisions considering schools in the rural areas where most of these parents may not be able to make provisions. We have decided to engage the Ministry of Education and see what is on ground.
“Moreover, the state Commissioner for Education is a member of the covid-19 Taskforce.
“All things being equal, we should have been contacted before the announcement, but, even if we are not contacted, we will now move to them to seek further clarification.”
On his part, Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association, Dr Oluwole Akintayo, stated that it would be difficult to manage vulnerable children when the schools reopen.
He wondered why the haste to reopen schools, noting that even if terminal examinations were held, the classes they intended to graduate to were still occupied.
Akintayo said, “Government should act on the basis of scientific information available to it. From what we have on ground, I think the action to reopen schools is premature. I think it is not right to expose the vulnerable people to the scourge of Coronavirus.
“You open schools for Primary 6, JSS3 and SS3. For SS3, WAEC has not decided what to do so why do we want to expose those children who are vulnerable.
“England, for example, has decided to use the Continuous Assessment to determine those to proceed. If you ask children, who are naturally playful, to report to schools, there is no way they can abide by those protocols. That is why we need to be cautious.
“Israel opened their own schools and there was a spike. We must prioritise things. Life is more important than education. For primary 6, even if they are graduated to JSS1, have those in JSS1 vacated the class?
“The best interest of the child should determine action to be taken. The tertiary institutions are not open, and these are adults. But you have children in primary, secondary schools, that are vulnerable, play, mingle, some will bring infection from their houses, some will take infection to their houses.”
Nigeria Labour Congress Chairman in the state, Mr Bayo Titilola-Sodo, said the NLC was set to engage the government on modalities for reopening.
Also speaking, Director of the Education Advancement Centre, Pastor Muyiwa Bamgbose, said he believed that Governor Seyi Makinde was being guided by facts in his decision to order reopening of schools.
He, however, called for caution, noting that the state government must properly analyse the progression of cases in the state.
He also gave instances of proprietors, who ordered that schools be opened and shut them again, noting that the state should not hesitate to suspend reopening of schools should the cases continue to rise.
Bamgbose said, “We are stakeholders and I believe the government must have facts that we may not have.
“Ordinarily, one will say that there should be caution to protect lives of children and teachers, and by extension, their families.
“But, we know that the governor of Oyo state is a serious-minded governor. We believe they must have facts that we don’t have.
“Caution is important because we have discussed with people in other countries and some have opened their schools and shut them again.
“We are depending on the soundness of the decision of the state government.
“We need to look at the rates of the rising. If the rate of rising is dropping, it means we have passed the peak.
“Even if the figures are dropping, unless they have information superior to what we have, we should be careful.”
Chairman, Nigeria Medical Association, Dr Akin Sodipo, wondered why the state government relaxed the lockdown when the number of cases in the state was not a downward trend.
According to Sodipo, the state is sitting on a keg of gunpowder except it ensures strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols in schools.
Among posers raised by Sodipo are: how the state government intend to monitor the students, whether students will be coming to school in shifts so as to adhere to social distancing in classes, whether the state government will be providing sanitisers, washing hand points in schools.
He said, “I am not in 100 percent of the systematic reopening of schools and worship centres in Oyo state. We all know that there is an increase in the incidence of this pandemic.
“Usually people wait for the table to be flattened out, then when it is on the downward trend, then you systematically release the lockdown.
“I am sure that the task force has more insight than some of us do, moreover there are doctors and professionals there.
“The problem is how do you monitor these kids. How do you limit number of students in each class? If there were 30 students in a class, you have to reduce to 15 students to abide with social distancing. So, will the schools build more classes? Will they send some kids away?
“Are they going to start running shifts? If they are going to run shifts, are they going to employ new set of teachers?
“I think these are things that the state government will have discussed with proprietors of schools. Also, how do you monitor them such that after leaving class, they do not have physical interaction.
“The government will not tell us anything and I believe that they have looked into that and discussed with proprietors of schools.
“I guess they have discussed with the proprietors and have given these guidelines. If not, we might be sitting on a keg of gunpowder.
“There is nothing as good as making a law, but the better thing is to enforce it. If they can enforce social distancing in classes, monitor these kids during break time or they won’t have break time.
“Even if they sanitise on entry to school, kids play a lot so sanitization must be continuous within the class, like giving students sanitizer at particular intervals. Have you put in place measures before you unlock?”
Chairman, Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union, Emmanuel Alayande College of Education, Oyo, Segun Oyewunmi, also said the decision to reopen schools was in order as long as the state government is able to provide sanitisers, washing hand points and facemasks.
He said the experience in primary and secondary schools would serve as a test case before tertiary institutions will be expected to reopen in the state.